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Squid’s Louis Borlase Tells Us Why Their New Single is an Actual Dumpster Fire

“Fugue (Bin Song)” was released on January 24

It’s a gloomy afternoon in Southeast London, as Squid guitarist Louis Borlase reports, from his home in Deptford, U.K. So far the day has been “chaotic” as he and his bandmates are packing for their upcoming U.S. tour, kicking off on February 2 in Austin, Texas, ending in (hopefully) sunny Los Angeles on March 1. 

If you happen to see Squid live this go-around, be sure to pick up one of their “mysterious” mixtapes for sale. (Yes, cassettes.) Louis describes them as “random bits of music,” but we’re guessing, by the songs they make, it’s going to fascinate. At the very least, as Louis puts it, “It’s nice to have a little mysterious fun item in the merch table.” 

One song that’s sure to be on their setlist is “Fugue (Bin Song)” a live staple that’s been in their repertoire for at least three years. It didn’t make the cut for their 2023 sophomore album, the much-lauded O Monolith. However, its stand-alone-single status is one that Louis feels allows the song “to exist quite playfully in its own world. It will exist in the live set again. We’ve been playing it quite hard, which has been nice. We’ve revisited it.”

As with all things Squid, it’s an art piece, a melodic cacophony that is so uniquely them – it’s one song that tells a very big story. And we love it.

Read on to discover why there are Renaissance people roasting in flames in a trash heap. 

SPIN: Did you grow up with cassettes?

LOUIS BORLASE: When I was younger and we were on family holidays, me and my sister were listening to [our parents’] cassettes and using their cassette players. I loved tape. I love how it stretches and loses its fidelity. 

Later on, I got quite interested in recording using cassettes and just essentially tape loops and using the TASCAM PortaStudio as a four-track instrument. It’s been quite important, I think, in us developing as a band our musical vocabulary, because we really like imperfection and we really like the perceived mistake of sound. Often, digital recording eliminates all of that exciting accident from your music. It’s a bit of a shame sometimes, actually. 

You said something about cassettes being distorted. There’s definitely a distortion in Squid’s music.

I think that when you take away the clear digital demarcation between individual pieces of music, like the CD and the iTunes library have done so efficiently, you are left with this gray area between when to start the record, to the end, and you’re just fast forwarding. The whole wider landscape of the album becomes a lot more implicit and you get disoriented in a record much easier, I think, with analog formats. Same with the record. You can see the lines in the record, you see where the tracks are, but you’re never really going to not just listen to the whole thing.

Would you agree that you guys seem to be an album band?

We love making records. We’ve only released two so far, but both have been experiences of these drastically different stages of producing what you collectively idealize to be a cohesive, wider body of work and art. I think we’re really interested in the whole being more than the sum of its parts because we’re five people with quite [distinctly] different elements to our compositional process. We’ve all got our slight variations on interest between different musical parts of a wider project.

Squid (Credit: Alex Kurunis)

Can you tell me a little bit about the artwork for “Fugue (Bin Song)”? There are actual people on fire in the trash.

The artwork was done by a designer who did the artwork for O Monolith. He often finds old pieces of illustration… He likes taking them out of their context, and re-contextualizing them in drastically different[ settings].

Those faces in the bin were an off cut from the O Monolith design ideas. We ended up using this human alphabet that him and his brother developed. When we were doing the re-edit of “Fugue,” we thought it would be a good idea to get out the original bin faces.

The trash people.

The trash people, yes. They’re bin gremlins.

It’s not going to end well at all.

It’s hard. [laughs]

Where did the song come from? 

The track we started playing probably three or so years ago, mostly as an instrumental. It was the first time in a while where it involved all five musical voices of the band coming in layer by layer. Anton starts with rhythm guitar, and then my guitar melody comes in, and then Arthur’s texture of strings takes over that, and eventually, the bass and drums playing a polyrhythm against the rest of us.

It was a slightly tongue-in-cheek name because in particular forms of old baroque medieval music, a fugue starts with a specific melodic device before often it’s taken and developed and it’s flipped upside down and put it in retrograde. Then sometimes, you have these particular counterparts and by the end, the piece doesn’t really appear as it did at the beginning. We gave it that name as a nickname, as opposed to us all sitting down seriously saying, “Let’s make a medieval fugue for this one.” So this is just a bit of a joke.

Why is this such a good live song?

What we really like, also playing it early on in the set, is the one-by-one staggered layers of our musical personality. It’s these differing voices all stepping on each other’s feet at first, and then within no time, it’s making up this cyclical group of sounds. I think there’s a lot of space in it. 

But the other definition of fugue is “reversible amnesia.”

Yes. If someone’s in a fugue state…that’s what my grandpa used to say when he was hungover. I don’t actually know what it means. I think my grandpa was probably referring to drinking too much whiskey, maybe remembering the night before.

What I really like about these lyrics [is that] it’s taking an element of what feels ultra mundane, the observation of a bin or a trashcan on the side of the road…the focus of a more esoteric, slightly more celestial journey of thought outside of the explicitly existing, and [turning it into] into something a bit more implicit and abstract. All the while, it does feel like a stream of consciousness.